Monday, December 29, 2014

Yoga Mysteries, Imperfect Sleuths, and Book Launches!

Reader and yoga teacher Rene de los Santos patiently waiting for A Killer Retreat

I never wanted to be a writer, but then again I never wanted to be a yoga teacher. I always thought yoga was for woo woo Gumby wannabes who got their jollies contorting themselves into pretzel-like positions. The whole idea of it flummoxed me.

Then I got into a car accident.

Seven years later, I was still in significant chronic pain every day, and I couldn’t turn my head more than an inch or two. None of my doctors gave much hope for my recovery. At one point, I told my friends that if I thought it would help, I’d travel to Africa and dance naked around a witch doctor’s fire.  I’d have done anything to escape the pain. Even yoga.

I stumbled into my first yoga class out of desperation. I hate to admit it, but I left feeling significantly worse than when I arrived. I told my husband when I got home that the word yoga obviously meant “much pain.”

But I kept going, for months. You see, the balm I’d hoped to find for my body was actually easing my soul. I was calmer, happier, more balanced. When that yoga teacher left town for a month, I tried several other classes and stumbled upon a style that would soon become my yoga home—Viniyoga. For the first time ever, I left class with a body that felt as great as my mind.

Viniyoga is breath centered, adaptive, and therapeutic. It worked like magic on my neck and upper back. Within a few months, I was off the prescription pain meds and I could turn my head again. Shortly thereafter, I decided to quit my corporate job and make my living sharing these ancient teachings with others.

My yoga teacher-protagonist Kate teaches this same style of yoga. Kate’s wounds are more psychological than physical, and she’s far from the perfect yogi, but the practice serves her nonetheless. Yoga’s philosophy gives her compass that guides her life. True, she’s often a few degrees off north, but she’s learning. Someday she might even find the healing and peace that she offers to others.
Rutledge won't come out until his human reads him A Killer Retreat
Whether or not you ever decide to try yoga, I hope you’ll give my series a shot. The Downward Dog Mysteries, like most cozies, are lighthearted, often funny, gore is off-screen, and sex is behind closed doors.

Even if the only pose you’ll ever practice is Corpse Pose—and that after one too many margaritas—the series has something to offer. Love, growth, mystery, and hope, not to mention some laugh-out-loud moments, especially those with Kate’s German shepherd, Bella.  The first book, Murder Strikes a Pose, is available now.  The second, A Killer Retreat, launches January 8. Rumor has it you can pre-order A Killer Retreat for your electronic devices and have it on New Year’s Day.  The perfect way to start 2015.

Yoga, dogs, and murder. What could be more fun?

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

About Tracy:

My writing is an expression of the things I love best: yoga, dogs, and murder mysteries. I'm a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, WA. I enjoy sharing my passion for yoga and animals in any form possible.  My husband and I live with our challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha and our bonito flake-loving cat Maggie. When I’m not writing, I spend my time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at my favorite local ale house.

For more information, visit me online at and

Monday, December 8, 2014

Winter Is Coming

by Shannon Baker
Here it comes again.
It’s my last one here in Nebraska. I say this with my fingers crossed. I haven’t often said “never” in my life, but when I have, it’s come back to bite me. For instance, I remember my first drive through the Nebraska Sandhills. I said, “This is awful country. I’d never live here.”
Less than three years later I moved to the Sandhills and lived there for twenty years. It might not have been the awful country I’d imagined, but it was a challenge to love.
When I escaped from there, I moved to Boulder, Colorado. An amazingly beautiful place. From there I bounced down to Flagstaff, AZ. That’s the gateway to the Grand Canyon and in the middle of mountains and a lodegpole pine forest. I said, “I’m never going to live anywhere not beautiful again.”
A little over a year ago, I ended up in southwest Nebraska. There is probably plenty to love around here but this is a temporary gig for me and I don’t feel like setting out to find the silver lining. Bad attitude, I know, but I’ve been through menopause and older women tell me you lose your capacity to accept BS with the collagen and everything else that disappears. I’m good with that.
There are lovely homes in this town, even a luxury neighborhood on a golf course. We don’t live there. We live in the ghetto, if a town of 6,000 can have a ghetto. Our house is nearly 100 years old and has as much insulation as a canvas wall tent. (Just how the hell did Indians make it through prairie winters in a teepee, anyway?) All I have to do is survive one more winter here and we’re heading south, all the way to Tucson, where silver linings abound.

I have heat. An ancient furnace that kicks on about the time I can see my breath, blasts me into the Death Valley zone, then pops off, leaving the air to hiss against the frigid walls. It’s like a family-sized hot flash and everyone can share in the fun. I peel off layers at the height of the heat wave before I can start sweating, then quickly add them back when the temperature plummets again.  
Last winter, I trudged to the library five days a week. This worked for me on multiple levels. It got me out of the house and among living people, made me stretch my legs and breath fresh air, imposed a work environment where I couldn’t leave until I completed my quota, and, the most important, the temperature remained steady. Chilly, but constant.
Back at home, my writing outfit consisted of long underwear, jeans, t-shirt, sweatshirt, fingerless gloves, down booties, and on the coldest days, my husband’s fleece pullover on top of it all. Most days I added a fleece cap, because, 80% of heat escapes through your head. (Did anyone else’s mother tell them that?)
I did a lot of cooking and baking, especially recipes on low heat that I could simmer all day. I even found a DIY heating system online that called for terra cotta flower pots and tea lights. I nearly burned the house down and have been banned from playing with matches ever since.

I’m bracing for it, clenching my teeth and pulling out the long underwear and wool socks. Here we go again. One last time. Winter is coming, and as with any George R. R. Martin work, there’s always a large and surprising death toll.

Our Midnight Inkers are scattered all over the map. The Minnesotans (Jessie Chandler and Jess Lourey) will call me a wimp. The Floridians (Deb Sharp) and Californians (Sue Ann Jaffarian) and Arizonans (Maegan Beaumont) have no clue what I’m talking about. The Coloradans (Linda Hull and Mark Stevens) will mock me since they spend winter with crisp white snow and bright sunshine. So what about the rest of you, tell us what you love and hate about winter.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dying for the Past - The Roots of the Sequel Part I

  By Tj O’Connor, author of Dying to Know & Dying for the Past

Countdown—39 days to the launch of Dying for the Past, my first sequel to Oliver “Tuck” Tucker’s debut in Dying to Know. Tuck is back in Book 2 and he’s on a new case with the help of his beautiful and brilliant professor-wife, Angel, and Detective Bear Braddock, his always faithful, always-protective ex-partner. Or maybe I’m describing Hercule, his black Lab companion. Both I think.

Tuck has just started settling down into his new life as a dead detective after wrapping up his own murder and ending the killing spree of a serial killer. Things have been going well for him—all things being considered that is.  

Tuck finds that being dead is often bittersweet. He explains a little in Chapter 1 of Dying for the Past

Sometimes, being dead is not so bad. Like poofing in and out of places on a whim without bothering with doors and stairs. And you never have to pee or get the flu again—big pluses. Then there are times, though, when dead is depressing and sad. It’s the things you miss—the taste of good wine, the adrenaline-rush of chasing a suspect, or the feeling when you’re in the middle of the dance floor with the most beautiful woman in the room. Those moments hurt.

A woman with shoulder-length auburn hair and sparkling green eyes stood in the middle of the mansion’s ballroom. Her long, silky gown was icing poured hot over sultry curves. All eyes fixed on her when she embraced a tall, distinguished-looking older man before a dance. He wore a tux—okay, yeah, he was striking with gray hair and a strong, muscular build, brilliant, rich, blah, blah, blah. Big deal. The two could have been on a wedding cake, but instead were the center of attention at Angel’s big band-themed charity gala, and leading a turn around the floor to Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade.

When they took their first step, I turned away …

Then wham. Someone’s dead. Not just any someone, mind you, but a shifty rich guy with a carnation on his lapel and a beautiful, but angry young bride on his arm. The only things anyone knows about this mysterious philanthropist is that he has too much money, too beautiful a young wife, and one-too-many bullet holes in him.

Mr. Carnation hailed a passing waiter for a refill of champagne. After downing the glass in a single gulp, he lifted Angel’s hand for a melodramatic kiss.

His glass shattered and spasms jerked his body all the way to the floor. His right arm thrust out and pointed at the crowd; his left still held the broken glass stem. His body twitched a few more times and stilled …

… I’d seen death before—and murder, too often. Not just my own, but dozens.

This one was unmistakable. It wasn’t the way Mr. Carnation collapsed in a jerky, melodramatic spiral to the hardwood. It also wasn’t the way his dull, lifeless face caught the dance ball light either. It was much simpler.

      It was the blood pooling around his body and the bullet hole through his torso.

Someone murdered Mr. Carnation—shot him in front of two hundred witnesses. A killer jitterbugged in and gunned him down to Benny Goodman.”

In Dying for the Past, Tuck realizes pretty quickly that it’s all about just that—the past. For Tuck, his past started to haunt him (pardon the pun) after his murder. You see, being dead also comes with some perks—spirited perks, like touching crime scene objects that show him a few snippets of their meaning (though often veiled) and being able to move about without the delays of traffic or bad weather. He can pop in and out of places at a whim. He just has to know where he wants to be. No, he has no after-life intuition or clairvoyance—it always comes down to plain old detective work. Now, he has to figure out how to use his new-found talents and a couple unusual characters to solve the case.
“Across the room, standing alongside the dance floor, was an uninvited guest. He was a stout, striking man in a black pinstripe, double-breasted suit. He wore shiny, buffed wingtips and a gray felt fedora. The only thing missing was a big cigar hanging out of his mouth and a violin case. Then, he swept his hand across his jacket and revealed a heavy semi-automatic in a shoulder holster. Did someone invite Al Capone?

He looked at me and winked. Winked …

… Voices hushed as eyes fell on the dead man.

Not me, though, I watched the crowd, looking for the killer and any telltale sign of the smoking gun.

But what I saw, or didn’t see, unnerved me more.

The gangster in the black pinstripes was gone … vanished—poof. He arrived just in time for a killing and left before the body hit the floor. No sign of his spats and black tie remained. He didn’t leave his fedora or heater behind either. He was as dead and gone as Mr. Carnation.

The question was, however, would he stay that way?”

In Dying for the Past, Tuck begins to learn some of his own family secrets. First, after witnessing the murder of Stephanous Grecco in front of his wife and a hundred people at the Vincent House—no one saw anything—Tuck finds himself searching for the killer and wondering what it all has to do with his own family tree. What does he find along the way?
      ·       Vincent Calaprese—the spirit of a 1939 mobster boss with his hooks into Tuck’s family tree.
      ·       Sassy—the eye-candy delight always on Vincent’s arm and always after Tuck’s eye.
      ·       Doc Gilley’s secret just within arm’s reach. Can Tuck get the truth out of him?
      ·       Someone stalking Angel, but what does it have to do with Steve and Bonnie Grecco—the new rich elite in Winchester? And what does AndrĂ© Cartier, Angel’s only family and mentor, have to do with all of it?
      ·       Why are the FBI, US Attorney’s Office, and a television ghost-hunter all converging on the Vincent House?
      ·       Also, why is Poor Nic Bartalotta—retired New York mob boss extraordinaire—connected to the Russian Mob and missing federal snitches?
      ·       Above all, who will find The Book—Old Vincent’s gangster journal holding the secrets to a bundle in loot and the names and evidence on the who’s who of Washington D.C.’s World War II spies, mobsters, and corrupt-elite. You’d be surprised how many are still around these days.

The answers come from the past and the victims are Dying for the Past.

Stay tuned to this channel—same InkSpot Time, same InkSpot channel. Next month, I’ll disclose some of the past behind Dying for the Past. Like …
      ·       What’s the backstory to Vincent Calaprese and his pre-World War II escapades?
      ·       What’s the story behind Tuck, Doc, and his wayward ancestors?
      ·       Why am I so connected to the past myself? What skeletons and secrets do I have hidden deep away?

If you can guess any of these answers, drop me a line here or email me at

Be looking for Dying for the Past out on your bookshelves January 8, 2015!

Tj O’Connor lives in Virginia with his wife and three Labs. Dying to Know is the fourth of his eight novels and is currently available in bookstores and online. Dying for the Past, the first of two sequels, will be released in January 2015—available now for pre-orders. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism and investigations. Learn about his world at and Facebook at

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday Season Writing

--by Linda O. Johnston

Happy December, everyone!  This is the first day of the last month of the year.  We're now ensconced in the year-end holiday season.  It starts somewhat with Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving, then followed by other holidays which include Hanukkah and Christmas--and pretty much ends by New Year's. 

Those of us who are full-time writers may not be as affected by the holiday season as those who also have day jobs.  That's not entirely the case, though.  I kind of have a regimen of getting other stuff out of the way in the morning, then writing in the afternoon.  It's not engraved in stone, which is a good thing since, when I need to factor in cooking and family and additional plans, that schedule can be modified--as long as I convince my mind that's the case.

Plus, I belong to a number of organizations, most related to writing, that throw holiday parties, and I attend as many as I can, including my local Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America chapters, as well as chapters of Romance Writers of America.  I'm additionally a member of the alumni association for the company where I used to be an in-house attorney, Union Oil Company of California, and I wouldn't want to miss its holiday party.

Oh, and I can't forget my ongoing promotion of my published works such as my first Superstition Mystery LOST UNDER A LADDER.  That remains time-consuming, but it has slowed down somewhat since its October release.

Despite the holidays and shopping and other events, deadlines remain the same.  That's fine with me.  I just have to do some strategizing, as I do other times of the year as well when faced with additional kinds of plans including travels.  I also need to keep in mind that my dogs will continue to break my train of thought by giving me orders, but that happens all year round.

So... enjoy your holiday season and everything it brings to you, even interruptions to your creativity if you happen to be a writer.

Happy holidays, and happy writing and reading, to all of you!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Writing Mood Ring

By: Deirdre Verne

When I first started writing, I found I could only be creative when I was happy. Not mildly happy. I’m talking ecstatically happy -- running through a field of sunflowers in a wispy summer dress type of happy. For the words to come, I had to feel bubbly and light. It didn’t take me long to realize that this state of euphoria, although wonderful, is rare. Given this strict criteria, I calculated that it would take me a decade to crank out a three-line haiku.

In the name of progress, I’ve since learned to write through my moods, good and bad. I’ve also mastered the art of writing while sick or injured. This includes a stint recovering from back-surgery and then a broken ankle. After all that, I can say one thing for sure: no matter how badly I feel when I start writing, I most certainly feel better when I’ve finished for the night. In fact, if I ever want to feel like I’ve run through a field of sunflowers, all I need to do is create that feeling on paper. And if I’m not entirely thrilled with what I’ve written, I know there’s a library full of books to take me to my field of flowers, imagined into being by other writers just like me.

Deirdre Verne (Lower Westchester, NY) is a college professor who is currently the curriculum chair of the marketing program at Westchester Community College. Previously, she held senior marketing positions at Time, Inc. Her latest novel, Drawing Conclusions will be available through Midnight Ink in Febuary, 2015.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fiction, Gratitude, and Real Change

Like most of you, I've begun preparations for Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season. I'm also working like mad to get ready for the January 8th launch of A Killer Retreat. All things considered, it seems appropriate for this blog article to focus on gratitude. 

I’m grateful for so many things: my sweet puppy-girl Tasha, my supportive wonder-spouse Marc, the cool sweetness of the cherry/beet smoothie I drank for breakfast, the warm, soft snuggle socks wrapping my feet. I rarely, however, remember to be grateful for my admittedly saggy mattress, heat I can turn on with the flip of a thermostat, or a safe place to shower every morning.  I take all of that for granted.
Many people aren’t nearly so lucky.  

Like George, the murder victim in my first book, Murder Strikes a Pose.
George is a completely fictional character, as is the Dollars for Change newspaper that he sells.  His story, however, was inspired by vendors of a similar newspaper in Seattle called Real Change.
I’ve always been impressed by the tenets of Real Change.  Real Change publishes stories about the challenges of the homeless in Seattle while employing those same homeless individuals as sales people.  The organization doesn’t offer the homeless a handout; it offers them hand up: the opportunity to earn money while helping promote true social change. 
I have befriended many of their vendors.  Some have worked for the paper for well over a decade.   Others get the help they need and move on. One striking woman has not only pulled herself out of life on the street, she has also become an effective advocate for those who are still homeless.  Even though her situation has changed, she knows there is still much more work to be done.
It’s easy to walk by and ignore those less fortunate--more comfortable not to look.  But each one of those individuals is a unique human being with an often tragic backstory.  Given the right circumstances, any one of us could find ourselves living on the street next to them.
In the opening scene of Murder Strikes a Pose, yoga teacher Kate tries to get rid of the vendor hawking papers outside her yoga studio’s front door. Not because she’s an uncaring person, but because doing so would make her life significantly easier.  Lucky for Kate, George and his crazy German shepherd Bella refuse to leave. Inviting George and Bella into her life will soon change Kate, in every way for the better.  May we all be as lucky.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, filled with abundance, joy, gratitude, and compassion.  May all of our actions help promote real change.

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

About Tracy:

My writing is an expression of the things I love best: yoga, dogs, and murder mysteries. I'm a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, WA. I enjoy sharing my passion for yoga and animals in any form possible.  My husband and I live with our challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha and our bonito flake-loving cat Maggie. When I’m not writing, I spend my time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at my favorite local ale house.

For more information, visit me online at and

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November Releases!

By: Maegan Beaumont

Check out these exciting new reads!

Bloody Politics
By: Maggie Sefton 
A Molly Malone Mystery #3 
"A strong protagonist."—LIBRARY JOURNAL

 Hell on Wheels
By: Sue Ann Jaffarian 
The Odelia Grey Mysteries #9
“Action-filled . . . Jaffarian neatly pulls all the plot lines together for a satisfying outcome."—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“Trapline rings as true as the beautiful mountains and valleys that frame this exciting, tense drama of today’s Colorado.”—Manuel Ramos, award-winning author of
Desperado: A Mile High Noir

"Ernst keeps getting better with each entry in this fascinating series."—LIBRARY JOURNAL

Maegan Beaumont is the author of the award-winning Sabrina Vaughn thriller series. The third installment, Promises to Keep, will be released in the late summer of 2015 by Midnight Ink.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Very Best Thing

By: Maegan Beaumont

This past weekend, I attended my very first Bouchercon... and it was wonderful. Here is a list of some of the great things that happened to me:
1) I met loads of my fellow MInkers. I liked them and I think a few might like me back.
2) I had the opportunity to develop some fledgling friendships (I'm looking at you, Shannon Baker!).
3) I sat in on a last minute and decidedly awesome panel called WOMEN KILL AT MYSTERY. An entire hour dedicated to singing the praises of unsung (and undersung) mystery writers by their contemporaries. It was hangs down, the best hour I spent at B'con.
4) I was invited to dinner by my very good friend, Les Edgerton (who is a terrific Noir writer, you should check him out). We haven't seen each other in a while and it was so nice to see him again--I really love that guy!
5) Our very own Catriona McPherson took home an Anthony for best paperback!
6) I was invited to participate in a panel called EXPERIENCING FEAR with some of my most favorite writers. 

All of these things were fantastic but there was one thing that happened that I have decided was the very best thing that has happened to me as a writer so far...

During my panel (and I'm sitting shoulder to shoulder with Alison Gaylin and Alex Sokoloff--a couple of heavy hitters, for sure), I notice a little girl in the audience. She's about 10 and she's with her mom and I think to myself, what in the world is she doing here? We're talking about some pretty gritty stuff. I hope she's not freaked out...

And then she raises her hand and announces to the room that she's currently writing a novel about a serial killer and proceeds to ask some of the most thought-provoking and intelligent questions I have ever been asked. I was floored by this young woman's confidence and curiosity. 

But that's not the very best thing...

The very best thing is that after the panel, as everyone is filing out, this young writer approaches the panel... and asks me (ME!) writing advice.

I came down off the platform and sat with her for a few minutes. We talked about writing and I gave her my email address and invited her to write to me. I didn't ask for her name or for a picture--because, hello! Minor!--but I really hope she writes to me. At her age I was a writer but I didn't have the self-confidence to proclaim it to the world and I certainly didn't have the self-confidence to ask another (grown-up) writer for advice. 

Young writer, whoever you are, you are awesome! Thank you for being my very best thing--I hope I helped you as much as you helped me.

Maegan Beaumont is the author of CARVED IN DARKNESS, the first book in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series (Available through Midnight Ink, spring 2013). A native Phoenician, Maegan’s stories are meant to make you wonder what the guy standing in front of you in the Starbucks line has locked in his basement, and feel a strong desire to sleep with the light on. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess for her high school sweetheart turned husband, Joe, and their four children, she is locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one true love, Jade.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Never Put Off Until Tomorrow...

by Shannon Baker

I had a colonoscopy this week.

The only remarkable thing about it was how totally unremarkable it was. Sure, I got a little hungry. And I had a kind of queasy hour or so before I got into the flow, but in the grand scheme of things, it was much less painful than sitting through August in Osage County.

And yet, if you swept all the annoyance at being harassed by my health care providers, the dread of having to do it, the effort of putting it off, the bone-deep belief that the test would reveal nothing but the cutest colon, and the nagging of caring friends, you’d see a pile of negativeness far larger and lumpier than the mild inconvenience of the actual procedure.
Which brings me to marketing. As it would.
Much like my conviction that the colonoscopy would be torture, I’ve convinced myself that marketing is the Devil. It takes time. That’s time I could be writing. It’s mysterious and often times ineffective. Yet, everyone agrees you have to do something.
No one knows what magic cocktail of direct mail, personal appearances, blog tours, paid advertising, and giveaways will net that intoxicating high of sales. Unless, of course, you crack the BookBub code and then you can retire on royalties.
I’ve handled marketing in about the same dysfunctional manner as going in for the colonoscopy. I’ve denied the need to do it. I’ve avoided it at all costs. I’ve skirted around it and touched on it half-heartedly, sort of like going in for yearly checkups but not making the total commitment.
I made lists of books stores to contact or reviewers to query. And put off calling because *whine* cold calling is scary. So instead of doing, I procrastinated and worried, then I climbed on the I Suck Train for not doing what I should have done.
Well, kids, this is where I get off. A few months ago a friend, Master Marketer Julie Kazimer, convinced me I need to do it. Much like the impending retirement of my patron (husband) nudged me into getting the colonoscopy while it was still covered by insurance, I realized the time has come for me to jump into the marketing fray.
So I did. I started making lists and then forcing myself to make the calls and write the emails and follow up.  Here’s what I discovered:
Just as the unremarkableness of the colonoscopy, setting up book signings and arranging a blog tour is not that big of a deal. Sure, it takes some time. But it’s not like someone is bludgeoning me with a fence post.  There is surprisingly little physical pain involved in phone calls and emails.
Book signing that didn’t hurt. With William Kent Krueger and Sean Dolittle

I’ve even forced myself to teach a few workshops and do some public speaking. And there was absolutely no prescription pain medication involved. Although I might or might not have self-medicated after the fact, in a purely congratulatory fashion.
As Granddad used to say, (sure, someone else made it famous but Granddad did say it a lot so I’m going with possession being 9/10ths and all that)  “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”  
It might sell a book or two and it keeps you off that Crazy Train.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Long and Winding Road

Keith Raffel here for the first time in a while.

I live in Palo Alto, California and worked in high tech for a quarter century. That makes me a Silicon Valley guy.

What does that mean?

That means I’m almost always willing to try something new. If it pays off, fine. If not, well, that’s fine, too. I’ll just try something else.

Getting into novel-writing was something new. I was a little bored at my job so I signed up for a mystery-writing class at UC Berkeley Extension. When my work life heated up, I threw a half-finished manuscript into a drawer. A few years later I pulled it out and finished it. I found an agent who sold Dot Dead to Midnight Ink. Twenty months after signing the deal the book came out. Midnight Ink bought my next book, too. (I am skipping over the trials and tribulations of querying agents and publishers – another time.)

The reviews on my first two books were encouraging, and the second even showed up on a national bestseller list. Okay, good. Now it was time to see if I could support myself at this writing gig: what I was making with a traditional publisher wasn’t going to cut it. So I decided to try something new. I self-published my next two books, Drop By Drop and A Fine and Dangerous Season, and put them up on Amazon and Somewhat to my surprise, I sold more copies and made more money than I had on my first two books. Another few steps down the road to making a living.

Amazon has its own publishing arm for crime fiction called Thomas and Mercer who were impressed enough with A Fine and Dangerous Season’s sales to offer to buy rights to it and bring it out under its own imprint. Sure, why not give it a try? It was a great ride. On one glorious day this past March, I saw my book ranked as the #5 seller on all of But I still wasn’t making enough to support myself, let alone pay for another two kids’ worth of college tuition.

So I was ready to try something new to move the ball down the road. I decided to raise money via Kickstarter, the crowd-sourcing site, for my fifth novel, Temple Mount. Why? Two reasons. First, I wanted to get buy-in from my fans. There’s an old Silicon Valley saying that when you eat a bacon-and-egg breakfast, the chicken participates, the pig commits. I wanted commitment from my fans (but I did want to keep them alive, too). And I think I got it. They were co-publishing right along with me and had a stake in the venture. They’ve helped the spread the word and 50 of them even helped edit the book. (Paying for the privilege to edit? That made me feel like Tom Sawyer.) I’ve been blown away by their enthusiasm and generosity. Second, the money raised spurred me to try something new, or maybe old, to publicize Temple Mount. Starting next week we’re running an ad for it on Bay Area cable stations. (You can see the ad below.) I’m keeping my fingers crossed on how it does.

So here I am, getting closer to my goal of making a living as a writer, but still not quite there. When I started at this game, I went the only way I could: signing with a traditional publisher. Now an author can also self-publish, publish via a publisher with a new model like Thomas and Mercer or Polis or Brash, or even crowd-publish. Any one of them might be the right one for an aspiring author or even an old hack like me. It just depends what she or he wants.

I do feel lucky to be writing in a time where authors have choices.


Before turning to writing full-time, Keith Raffel watched over the CIA, supported himself at the racetrack, founded a software company, taught writing to Harvard freshmen, ran for Congress, and sold DNA sequencing to medical researchers. He became a published author in 2006 with Dot Dead, which the New York Times said was “worthy of a Steve Jobs keynote presentation.” These days he can usually be found tapping his laptop’s keys and power-drinking green tea at a cafĂ© around the corner from his home in California’s Silicon Valley. His latest novel Temple Mount ("a terrific battle of wit and wills" -Steve Berry) came out this month.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dying for What's Next!

By Tj O’Connor, author of Dying to Know & Dying for the Past
I did it. I finished. Tuck solved another case and I wrote “The End” on Dying to Tell, the third book of Oliver Tucker’s case files— dubbed “The Ghost Gumshoe” by Midnight Ink, my publisher. Dying to Tell was a killer, no pun intended. The hardest thing I did in a very long time was hit “send” on the email that whisked Dying to Tell off to my agent, Kimberley Cameron.
It was painful. The email sat in my draft box for hours before I could muster the courage to send it. No, I wasn’t concerned about the book—my test readers loved it.  It was about The End, plain and simple.
You see, a little more than a year and a half ago, Midnight Ink bought Dying to Know—my fourth novel and first to be published—along with two sequels. Dying for the Past, the first sequel, releases January 8, 2015, and Dying to Tell, the second sequel, releases January 2016. Selling Dying to Know as a series thrilled me—and terrified me—and thrilled me some more. And, for the past year-plus, I wrote those two sequels night and day. Turning in Dying for the Past was easy. “The End” and on to Dying to Tell. No problem.
Then, a strange thing happened around page 300 of Dying to Tell.  A ball of “oh crap” filled my gut every time I sat at my keyboard. I found reason after reason to rewrite chapters and refine plot twists. This character changed, that character died. Then undid it all and started again. In the end, the final draft looked identical to the first—except I had languished over it for an extra two months.
As I neared the final chapters of Dying to Tell,  I was indeed dying—dying for the next story, the next book deal, the next bit of proof that my work was good enough for the world to read. Dying to Know, not a book I ever meant to publish, gave me a huge confidence boost when it first landed me my agent, Kimberley, and then ended up being my first published book of four at that time. Success! Someone besides my three Labs thought my work was worthy!
And the reality smacked me in the face. The series was written. The contract all but fulfilled. All there was to do was wait for the launch dates and try to build more readers. Not that all that is easy, mind you, but the real work was done. And, even before I typed “The End,” I missed Tuck and Hercule. And, with that, I worried about what was ahead.
On page 325 of Dying to Tell, I realized any evidence of talent I might have was not yet in hand. It would be the next book. It was the next sale. The next series. Tuck’s adventures were a great start. But was it a fluke? Had my agent and publisher had one-too-many the night before and saw something in my work that wasn’t there? (Gasp, eerie music, another gasp.)
Panic. Does that make me nuts? A defeatist? No. I think it makes me humble (yes, children of mine, I am humble now and then). I think my fear of failure is normal. In particular, after the first book sale. You wonder if it’ll ever happen again. You wonder if anyone will remember your name, your books, or your damn Facebook page.
You just wonder.
I think many authors face this—that scary place between your first book sale and your next. Writing books is easy—well, sort of—but finding success is not. Success comes not just from fans, readers, critics, and the occasional atta boy. To publishers, it’s mostly about commercial success. Sales. And, let me tell you, selling books is painful, slow, and often a climb that breaks your spirit. It’s tiny little steps—a book here, a few books there… a slow, almost endless quest to build an audience that will get you notice and more book contracts.
So you go on. Signings. Book fairs. Monstermania (yes, I went there and had a blast) and any place you can get yourself invited to. You Facebook, blog, blog some more, take out ads, take out more ads, and find every inventive way you can to get your book in someone’s hands. You will do whatever it takes…
And, when you ask why, it’s easy—How bad do you want to be an author?
Bad. Sinfully bad. Sell my soul and refuse to pay taxes bad. (No, IRS, I do pay my taxes.)
And, for me, the fear of failure is—wait for it—palpable. I finished Dying to Tell and began to worry about the next book, the next plot, and above all, the next book deal. Since selling Dying to Know, I’ve penned two other novels in addition to Tuck’s two sequels. New Sins for Old Scores, another murder mystery with a paranormal twist and a historical subplot, is with Kimberley trying to find a home in the market. The Killing of Tyler Quinn is a more traditional story about a small town journalist who returns from the Gulf War after disappearing for years. Quinn’s best friend is found murdered on the evening Quinn reappears—his mysterious disappearance and the murder too coincidental for the town—he’s the prime suspect. The question is—will either of these sell? Will they find a home in this ever-tightening market?
What if they don’t? Will I perish in the land of the unknown authors—a crowded, lonely place where blogs and Facebook are your only comfort?
Kimberley says be patient, relax, my career has just started. And I trust her. But, deep down, hidden behind the thrill of having three books published and my past swashbuckling around the world chasing terrorists and spies is the woosie-boy in me. Can I do this? Will I sell another book? Can Wilfred stop the evil Dr … no, no, that’s a soap I watched the other day.
Nuts? No. I think people like me—self-driven madmen—measure ourselves not by what’s behind us but by what’s in front. You’re only as good as your next book. You’re only as loved as your next review. You’re only as talented as those weird voices in your head say. Okay, I’m nuts.
Now, given my fear of failure, one might wonder how I keep from leaping off my porch to my bitter end. Well, my porch is only two feet off the ground. But, for real, it’s the occasional email or random fan who drops me a note or stops by a signing just to tell me how much they loved the book and can’t wait for the next—and what else am I writing … when will it be out? I’m just getting started and I’ve only had a few dozen of such emails and conversations, but each one is a thrill for me.
Nuts? Hell yes I am—to the bone. But, that has nothing to do with writing books.
Warning: The following is a cheap promotional announcement…
Don’t miss the sale… Amazon has Dying to Know on sale for Kindles… $1.99 between 11/7 and 11/23!
Tj O’Connor lives in Virginia with his wife and three Labs. Dying to Know is the fourth of his eight novels and is currently available in bookstores and online. Dying for the Past, the first of two sequels, will be released in January 2015—available now for pre-orders. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism and investigations. Learn about his world at and Facebook at